Now that Nick Chubb’s deal with the Cleveland Browns is finalized, the focus can turn to Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward extensions. Attention will also be on David Njoku, Ronnie Harrison and Wyatt Teller. Extending Chubb was just the first move in what should ideally be a series of moves to ensure the future success of the Browns.
Cleveland Browns Likely to Focus on Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward Extensions
In 2020, the Browns extended Myles Garrett, and only him, by mid-July. This season, with a handful of guys on contract years, the Browns have been slow in making decisions. That isn’t a bad thing by any means.
The Impact of Chubb’s Deal
Getting this $36.6 million deal finalized now means the Browns can get an accurate look at their salary cap. Chubb’s deal will likely impact on how they structure upcoming contracts. Extensions for Mayfield’s and Ward’s contracts are not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when and how’. They will be paid different amounts on each year of their contracts.
What About Kareem Hunt?
The Browns recent deals were set to go along with a growing salary cap. Kareem Hunt will earn $6.25 million in 2022. If Chubb’s deal awards him a lower salary that year, Cleveland will be able to keep both running backs for at least one more year. If the inverse happens and Chubb receives a bigger salary in 2022, keeping both backs after 2021 will be a challenge. It is clear they are an absolute force, major contributors to the team’s overall success. It is hoped the Browns figure out the financial logistics keep them together for as long as possible.
Mayfield and Ward Want To Stay in Cleveland
Deals can be done relatively quickly if the players want it. Mayfield and Ward both expressed the desire to continue their careers in Cleveland. And as Sports Illustrated’s Pete Smith says, their extensions could happen within two weeks if everyone wants that.
Mayfield has always said his main aim is to keep winning, all the way to the Super Bowl. Despite him being happy in Cleveland, there is the impression he could go elsewhere to achieve his biggest ambition. Taking a deal now would save the Browns enough money to put more talent around him. Waiting a year or two would mean more money for Mayfield, but less talent to work with, jeopardizing his Super Bowl aspirations.
Another option would be to wait it out. Chubb’s deal happening now could allow Mayfield and Ward to wait until 2023, when the salary cap rises. They are under contract though 2022, waiting will only mean more money for them. The Browns waited till Chubb resolutely said ‘Cleveland is where I want to be’ before they extended him. Perhaps they will go the same route with Mayfield and Ward.
It Gets More Complicated With the Others
For Njoku, Teller and Harrison, making calculations based on their worth is not so simple. Waiting and playing at a top level is vital so they are in a better position in the market after the season, but the Browns will not be able to outbid other teams. They could also hit them with a franchise tag. Furthermore, all three suffered injuries in 2020 and if those come back, that will drastically impact on their value.
General manager Andrew Berry said he is not opposed to getting a deal done during the season. In that scenario, it applies to Njoku and Teller. It is expected Njoku will finally be the star Cleveland expected him to be since 2017. Teller as a right guard in 2020 came with a more lethal running game than most in that position. Meanwhile Harrison is primed for a big 2021.
General manager Andrew Berry has a proven track record of finding talent and coming up with creative ways to pay for it. Whether Mayfield and Ward extensions come sooner or later, Berry is not done yet.